TTUHSC El Paso Hosts Regional Simulation Conference

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(Chris Espinosa/TTUHSC El Paso)

Last month, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) Center for Advanced Teaching and Assessment in Clinical Simulation (ATACS) hosted its fourth annual clinical simulation conference. The conference is a coordinated effort between TTUHSC El Paso’s Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM), Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing (GGHSON), ATACS, and Regional Training and Simulation Center; as well as University Medical Center of El Paso. The event offered health care professionals and students a chance to practice responding to clinical scenarios in the medical school’s state-of-the-art simulation labs.

Highlights included simulation training with the lab’s animatronic mannequins and “standardized patients” (real people trained to act out clinical scenarios); a free public health clinic; and a 3-D modeling workshop.

This year’s conference was the largest yet, drawing in nearly 200 participants from throughout West Texas, New Mexico, and even Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Despite the conference’s growing size, participants all benefited from a completely immersed, hands-on experience; they met in small groups of just three or four per simulation scenario. This small group setting allowed each participant to gain valuable clinical experience that they could then apply in their own medical practices.

Central to ATACS’ philosophy is the importance of interprofessional collaboration.

“We had all different kinds of learners — nursing students, medical students, residents — and also educators,” explained Sanja Kupesic, M.D., Ph.D., director of ATACS. As simulation training becomes more popular and more available, so, too, have opportunities for collaboration between different medical specialties, like nurses and medical doctors.

Chad Jackson, M.S., RRT, senior director of simulation for e-learning and innovation at the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) and the event’s keynote speaker, said, “The truth is we practice medicine as part of a team — physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners — all of us work together. So, we should train as a team, just as we work as a team.”

As part of the conference, students and seasoned medical professionals alike participated in a free public health clinic, administering blood glucose and blood pressure checks, as well as individual medical advice. Recognizing that diabetes and obesity are particularly prevalent in the border population, the clinic aimed to educate the public on how to make use of technologies to achieve health goals —like an iPhone app used for tracking blood pressure measurements and body mass index (BMI), and accessing health records and personalized nutrition advice.

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(Chris Espinosa/TTUHSC El Paso)

Conference-goers were also introduced to other medical innovations, including a workshop on 3-D modeling. Using 3-D printers, participants were able to observe the 3-D modeling process in action. Using computer-aided design (CAD) software, 3-D printers are able to transform a digital 2-D mockup into a tangible, anatomically correct 3-D part. The printers accomplish this by building the model layer by layer.

“With 3-D printing and modeling, there’s a great opportunity for medicine to look at different structures and techniques,” Jackson said. “There’s been a lot of press lately about being able to print pediatric heart models, so the physician can actually see the heart that they’re doing surgery on. 3-D modeling gives us a great opportunity to rapidly prototype and get results.”

Looking to the future, ATACS is constantly searching for opportunities to use clinical simulation in order to enhance patient safety.

“This is a safe learning environment where our medical professionals can practice the skills that are not so commonly seen in everyday practice. These are the areas where we really need to improve,” Dr. Kupesic said. “We do these simulations to improve the quality of health care, but also to bridge the gap that exists between clinical knowledge and everyday, routine practice.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s conference, which Dr. Kupesic anticipates will attract even more medical professionals from throughout the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico.